Home in a Dump
By Yumna Abbas

March 17, 2007
For many people, a dump is where the crap is thrown. For others who are less fortunate, it is a source of their food and for some, it is a home. For Abdul Mohammed, 43 years old, and Ahmed Iften, 45 years old, home is a rotting dump. After 10 years in this home in Mogadishu, Somalia, the stench and the flies are a part of their life. Both men are veterans of the Somali Army that took part in the horrible 1977 attempt to take back land from Ethiopia.

"We get so excited," says Abdul, "when the trucks bring new garbage; sometimes we find things that we can sell in the marketplace for money."

The men spend their days going through the garbage, looking for food, cigarettes and anything interesting. They search for things that they can sell, they search for things that they can create from and they search for things that will bring them delight in any way or form. Though mostly, they spend their time competing with the goats and the cows for the edible.

"I'm an actor," Abdul says in an energetic yet disturbing way. "An actor of garbage."

In the distance, Ali Muhammed, 18 years old, cooks something in a tin can over a garbage fire.

“He pokes the bubbling white mass with a slender, grooved, metal utensil that looks like molding stripped from a car door. He dips it into the can and takes a taste.” (Sites, Kevin. September 27, 2005)

When asked what it is he’s cooking, he replies: “Brains. Cow brains.”

“Ali is cooking next to the "igloos" of garbage in which they live: old suitcases piled onto cushions and clothing stretched over branches. It is nothing less than horrid. A dog lies on a pile of cow bones near the entrance, while her pups roughhouse with each other inside.” (Sites, Kevin. September 27, 2005)

When asked why it is that they live in the garbage dump. The reply that Abdul gave was: "It provides us with what we need. Sure life is hard, but it's not so bad."

Without a proper government, statistics do not exist and therefore, it is impossible to properly estimate how many are actually homeless in Somalia. Though we know hundreds of homeless people search through the garbage dumps in Mogadishu everyday. Surrounded by such poverty, living in such an environment, I ask myself if I could ever have hope in such a place. A place that makes people that are well off shudder with the thought of such a lifestyle yet also a place that provides the poor with food and sometimes even a little amusement.


Sites, Kevin. "Somalia's Garbage Scavengers." Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone - Yahoo. http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs1050 (17 Mar. 2007)


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